Omnivore - NYC food trucks: keep 'em illegal so they can survive!

Are gourmet food trucks ruining NY's street food scene?


  • lookatthisfuckinhipsterfoodtruck.tumblr.com
  • Are food trucks too cool?

The New York Times published an opinion column, "Outlaws Make Better Lunches," a few days ago about the recent crackdown against food trucks in Midtown Manhattan. Interestingly, street food vendors have never strictly operated legally there:

Food truck regulations have always been purposefully vague and selectively enforced in New York City. The government does not want to strip the city of one of its treasures (can you imagine a New York without hot dogs?) nor can it fully legalize street vending, because opening up hundreds of rent-free spots would damage the real estate economy.

So street vendors and the city long ago struck a tacit deal: the city allows vendors to sell food but reserves the right to kick them out of practically any spot at any time, and vendors keep their heads down, careful not to upset their relationships with the nearby brick-and-mortar businesses, with the police, and with each other. When disputes come up, vendors compromise or move.

What motivated the sudden crackdown?

The crackdown’s real catalyst was the recent explosion of high-end food trucks in Midtown. For the first time, blocks were host to three or four trucks at once. And instead of the old-school food vendors, who are often immigrants used to navigating the gray areas of the business, most of these trucks were operated by a new breed of entrepreneur looking to capitalize on what (falsely) appeared to be the hippest, most profitable trend in the food business.

If you're a food truck foodie, you should definitely give the column a read.